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April 23, 2018
On 28 April we all have an opportunity to highlight the impact that alcohol and other drugs (AOD) can have in the workplace. This day marks World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day: a time to promote workplace safety and to honour people who have died from injury or illness caused by work.
With one in 20 Australian workers admitting that they have worked under the influence of alcohol1, we need to be talking about the negative outcomes — including physical injury or death, but also other harms — that may be caused or sustained by someone working while affected by AOD.
It’s also important that we understand that some workplace sectors, and workplace cultures, may increase levels of risky alcohol consumption.
For example, those working in industries such as construction, financial services, manufacturing, hospitality and agriculture are at a higher risk of alcohol-related harms than those in many other workplace types2.
Additionally, workplace factors such as high stress environments, social isolation, shift work, and insecure employment, as well as workplace experiences of discrimination, harassment and conflict, may also be conducive to increases in risky alcohol consumption.2
But working directly under the influence of alcohol or other drugs isn’t the only source of AOD-related harm.
It can be easy to forget that the after-effects of AOD use, particularly intensive use, also has negative impacts on the workplace that can result in serious health and safety harms.
Being hungover from alcohol, coming down off other drugs, or simply being exhausted by a big weekend of use, can all impact on someone’s ability to concentrate, think and react quickly, and make good decisions.
Depending on the work that person is undertaking, this reduced performance could lead to annoying errors or mistakes – or the harms could be much more severe. And the impacts can fall on one or more people in addition to the person affected by AOD.
One in 10 workers say they’ve experienced negative effects from a co-worker’s misuse of alcohol3. This includes:
In the spirit of World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day, there are steps that we can encourage workers to ask their workplaces to take around AOD.
We spend much of our lives in the work environment. Taking the steps to ensure that people are well supported at work — particularly if they work in a high-risk environment — could make a real difference to reducing the harms from AOD in Australia.